Review: Vietnam Airlines Business Class 787 (SGN-NRT)

Jyaga unsure 3.5/5

Vietnam Airlines flight details

Airline : Vietnam Airlines
Flight No : VN 300
Departure City : Ho Chi Minh – Tan Son Nhat (SGN)
Arrival City : Tokyo – Narita (NRT)
Equipment : Boeing 787-8 (VN-A867)
Blocked Time : 5h50m
Seat No: 5K

Following my brief but fun visit to Ho Chi Minh City, it was finally time to travel onwards to the main destination of this trip: Tokyo! I have explained a bit about the airline and how I booked this flight in the first installment, which you can read here. Having said that, I did specifically book this itinerary so that I could experience both short and medium-long-haul flights on Vietnam Airlines.


After checking out from the Lotte Hotel Saigon, I took a taxi straight to Ho Chi Minh’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport. I was dropped off at the International Terminal departures, from where I looked for the Vietnam Airlines check-in desks. As expected from a hub airport, the airline has a dedicated check-in island for SkyPriority, its most premium passengers. Specifically, the desks are located at Island D, towards the middle of the check-in area. As was the case in Singapore, the airline differentiated Business Class from SkyPriority.

SkyPriority Check-in at Tan Son Nhat Airport

As I arrived 12 hours before my midnight flight, the check-in agent looked at me wide-eyed and dumbstruck when I told her I was booked on VN300. She asked me a lot of questions about why I was so early – more out of curiosity than suspicion – before reconfirming with her colleagues that check-in was indeed possible. Hah!

Tan Son Nhat Airport Departures

Despite that, she was very friendly and warm during the whole process and got me checked-in in no time. After issuing me my boarding passes, she then carefully explained that there are priority queues for Business Class passengers for both immigration and security. With that, I went straight to immigration, though I struggled to find the SkyPriority immigration queue. After using the regular Immigration queue, I did find a deserted SkyPriority security queue at the far right end.


Since Tan Son Nhat International is a major Vietnam Airlines hub, the airline operates two lounges at the airport, both of which I have reviewed in previous installments. To waste my 12 hours, I first visited Lotus Lounge 1 for four hours, before moving to the smaller but newer Lotus Lounge 2 for six hours. I went back to Lotus Lounge 1 before my flight.

Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge 2


I arrived at the gate at 23.00, 20 minutes before the advised time printed on the boarding pass. Due to the design of Tan Son Nhat, the gate seating area handles two gates simultaneously. Whilst theoretically efficient, this unfortunately meant the area got very crowded when two widebody flights depart within 10 to 20 minutes of each other. In our case, we shared our gate with an Osaka-bound Vietnam Airlines flight, which like my flight, appeared to be fully booked. I struggled to connect to the airport’s WiFi network here, probably because the bandwidth couldn’t handle the sheer number of people present.

Gate seating at Tan Son Nhat International
The Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787 heading to Osaka

Around 23.10, the ground staff showed up to adorn the gate with boarding group signs. After the initial preboarding announcement, the ground staff strictly enforced the boarding lines by priority or row number. Passengers travelling with small children and requiring special assistance were requested to queue between SkyPriority and Economy Class. At 23.33, boarding finally started, during which Business Class and SkyPriority passengers were invited to board first.

Boarding gate at Tan Son Nhat
SkyPriority sign at the gate

Despite the nearly full flight, I managed to be the first person to board – just to get those precious empty cabin pictures for you 😉 At the door, I was greeted by the friendly but reserved flight attendant, who walked me to my seat. Wow, that’s a detail I surely wasn’t expecting from Vietnam Airlines!

Vietnam Airlines 787 Cabin

Our flight was operated by VN-A867, a Boeing 787-9 delivered new to Vietnam Airlines in 2016. The plane features the airline’s most premium configuration, which included 28 Business Class seats, 35 Premium Economy seats, and 211 Economy Class seats. Whilst we boarded from the forward door, I managed to snap a quick picture of the Premium Economy cabin behind. Having the same seats, it definitely looks like a nicer version of the ScootPlus cabin I flew to Singapore!

Premium Economy Cabin on the Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9

Business Class cabin

In Business Class, the cabin consists of 28 Zodiac Cirrus reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. These are the same seats you’d find on Cathay Pacific, Finnair, and American Airlines. Unlike Cathay Pacific’s excellent seats though, these seats have virtually no customisation, apart from the olive-coloured fabric. Despite that, I liked that they opted to forgo the centre overhead lockers, giving the cabin a very airy feel!

Business Class on the Vietnam Airlines 787-9
Business Class on the Vietnam Airlines 787-9

As expected, the seat features direct-aisle access, meaning that you won’t have to jump over someone whenever you need to get out of your seat. In that sense, I would definitely go for a window seat when travelling alone, since the centre seats do not have a privacy shield of any kind.

View of the cabin

Seat Details

On this flight, I was seated at 5K, which I didn’t realise was missing a window (sigh). When it came to the seat itself, I found it to be lacking in padding – the seat honestly felt quite hard and lumpy. I was quite surprised since I’ve found most reverse herringbone seats to have great padding.

My seat, 5K
Storage and Power Outlets

To the side of the seat are a side table surface and an exposed storage compartment housing the headphones. Yet, it looked like the compartment in my seat was missing a hook for the headphones. Whilst it’s a minor inconvenience, it’s quite saddening that they couldn’t maintain the seat properly.

Headphones storage compartment and seat controls

Behind the storage compartment is a remote control for the entertainment screen, along with the seat recline control buttons, and a USB-B charger. There is also a reading light that could be slightly adjusted in terms of direction and brightness.

Control buttons and reading light

Just under the side table are the universal power outlet and a water bottle holder. The literature pocket is also placed here. Opposite that, to the aisle-facing side of the seat is a small enclosed storage locker. This is the only enclosed storage in the seat and could fit at most an amenity kit bag and a pair of headphones. Behind it is an extendable armrest that I found convenient to use in bed mode.

Power outlet, water bottle holder, and literature pocket
Enclosed storage locker and armrest
Entertainment Screen and Ottoman

In addition, each seat has a personal 15.4-inch entertainment screen that could be unstowed by a push of the button to the side. The screens can be controlled by the touch-screen function, which I found to be a lot more intuitive than using the remote control.

Below the screen is an ottoman, which joins the seat when in bed mode. Interestingly, the ottoman pad was very flimsy and looked like it could fall off despite being stuck in place. There is an exposed space under the ottoman, which proved to be useful as a shoe storage compartment inflight.

Stowed entertainment screen
Unstowed entertainment screen
Individual Air Vents

Finally, I did appreciate that the seats are equipped with individual air vents. This made it possible to have a bit of control of the temperature at the seat. Having said that, the cabin was kept cold for most of the flight, which is nice.

Individual air vents


Already waiting on the seat were a pillow and a blanket, along with an amenity kit, a pair of slippers, and headphones. Whilst the pillow was nice enough, I thought the blanket was a bit on the thin side, though comfortable nevertheless. Despite that, I was very impressed by the provision of an amenity kit, especially considering that this is a sub-6-hour flight! The kit is Cerrutti 1881-branded, featuring Payot amenities… a similar offering to the Malaysia Airlines First Class flight I took a few years ago!

Cerrutti 1881 kit

Whilst the amenity kit was a nice touch for this very short redeye, the headphones weren’t good at all. They were a marginal improvement over the ones you’d typically find in Economy and were overall pretty sad. Interestingly, the headphones weren’t wrapped in plastic; instead, they had replacement earpads that you have to put onto the headphones. Thankfully I wasn’t going to watch any movies, so that was fine.

Slippers and headphones

Departure from Ho Chi Minh

As we boarded, a lively Vietnamese ensemble was played, complemented by a video showing sights in Vietnam. As we were seated, the flight attendants came by offering cold towels and pre-departure drinks. Shortly after this, the flight attendants came back to distribute the menus for this flight and mentioned our flight details. Amazingly, the boarding process was completed 15 minutes after it started, which is surprisingly quick for a nearly full flight.

Hi Korean Air!
Inflight menu

The doors closed at 23.50, a full 20 minutes before our scheduled departure time. By this time, 22 of the 28 Business Class seats ended up being occupied. The purser made her welcome announcement in Vietnamese and English, during which the crew stood on the aisle and bowed. That’s a cute touch! A separate automated announcement in Japanese was also played. The safety video was played shortly after, which was preceded by a lot of advertisements.

Safety video

After the safety video screening, we started pushed back at 00.02, during which the flight attendants went over around the cabin to quickly take our drink and meal orders. The flight attendant on my aisle introduced herself as Nhat Ahn and kneeled down as she took the meal orders.

Cabin dimmed for takeoff

We took off 10 minutes later, unexpectedly with no advance announcement from the captain. Just as the captain requested the cabin crew to sit down, we were already on the runway powering to takeoff! The flight attendants rushed to get seated and the cabin lights were abruptly switched off. The suddenness of this definitely caught me off-guard!

View after takeoff

After Takeoff Drinks

The seatbelt signs were switched off 8 minutes after takeoff, which was slightly longer than expected. At this point, the crew closed the curtains in preparation for the brief drink service. Since I was seated towards the back of the cabin, I only got my drink 20 minutes later, which seemed quite long for a short redeye. As such, I’d probably skip the service just to maximise sleep, next time!

Hello Vietnam signature cocktail

Nhat Ahn came over with my drink and a ramekin of nuts, rice crackers, and wasabi peas, carefully placing each on the console next to the seat. I ordered a Hello Vietnam, which seemed to be their signature drink. I wasn’t sure what it was, since the menu didn’t go into specifics, but it reminded me a bit of KLM’s Flying Dutchman cocktail. Since it wasn’t specified in the menu, I also asked to see what Champagne they were serving, to which Nhat Ahn gladly obliged. For reference, Vietnam Airlines serves Champagne Charles Mignon Premier Cru, the same as on my short-haul flight.


After finishing my drink, I quickly went to the lavatories to refresh before going to sleep. As far as I was aware, there are two lavatories reserved for Business Class, both being at the front of the cabin. The first lavatory is in front of seat 1K, whereas the other is in the galley.

Business Class lavatory

The lavatories are the standard ones you’d find on a Boeing 787, although it was somehow already wet at this point. Regardless, the lavatories feature amenities (moisturiser and face and body lotions) from Gernétic International, which seems to be a French cosmetic brand. Razors were also placed behind this.

Lavatory amenities

Bed mode

After everyone was served, the cabin lights were dimmed and I reclined my seat into bed mode to sleep. Interestingly, the bed has a very slight angle when fully reclined, although thankfully it wasn’t too noticeable. Sadly though, between the limited bedding and the lack of padding, I found the bed to be rather uncomfortable. Whilst the cold cabin and my exhaustion ensured that I got some sleep, it wasn’t really good sleep.

Seat in bed mode
Angle of the seat
Seat in bed mode


After some patchy sleep, I was woken up 2 hours and 20 minutes before landing by the cabin lights being turned on. Unlike a few other airlines, the crew didn’t slowly increase the brightness of the cabin lights, which I think felt a bit like an abrupt change. By this time we were over Okinawa, and I had only slept for 2.5 hours, which I guess was better than nothing.

Around 10 minutes later, the captain announced our flight progress and arrival details, which was followed by an announcement by the crew that breakfast will soon be served. Sure enough, the flight attendants soon passed through the cabin to offer hot towels and drinks. I got a glass of water since they didn’t distribute bottles of water overnight.

Hot towel
Glass of water

Breakfast Menu

There were two cuisines on option, Japanese or Western & Asian style, each featuring two main dishes. I honestly had a hard time deciding between having the Pho Bo or the Japanese meal. However, since I wasn’t interested by the accompaniments of the Western & Asian style meal, I ended up ordering the Mackerel Teriyaki of the Japanese Meal. For reference, the inflight food and beverage menu read as the following.

Inflight menu
Beverage selection
Pho Bo description

Japanese Breakfast

Despite having placed the orders before takeoff, I still only got the meal 30 minutes after the hot towel service. That honestly made the breakfast announcement seem awfully early – I wish they could’ve kept the lights dim for a longer amount of time and offered towels and drinks as people woke up. Anyhow, the entire meal was served on one tray like teishoku.

The main dish consisted of a very small portion of teriyaki-cooked mackerel. This was accompanied by fishcake and some simmered vegetables like bamboo shoots, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, okra, and baby corn. Whilst the vegetables were nice, the mackerel surprisingly tasted quite fishy.

Breakfast tray

The main dish was served with takikomi gohan, which seemed like a nice combination with the main dish. Sadly, it tasted bland and was a bit mushy, so quite disappointing for takikomi gohan. On the side was also a bowl of miso soup with scallops komatsuna (mustard greens), which was very nice.

The accompaniments included a bowl of vinegared mozuku seaweed and a platter featuring Japanese-style eggs, smoked salmon wrapped in cucumber, a fishcake, and a chicken meatball. There were also a small plate of pickles and a bowl of fruits.

Honestly, the meal didn’t taste amazing and was quite mediocre in terms of quality. Yet, I still wound up finishing it since I knew I had a long day ahead!

Inflight Entertainment

During the meal, I finally had the chance to browse the inflight entertainment system, which is called Lotustar. The selection was decent, featuring a mix of mostly older releases alongside a handful of new movies. There were about 50 Western movies, in addition to about 30 Asian and Vietnamese movies. Interestingly, they didn’t play any advertisements before the start of any movie, which was nice.

Movie selection

Since I wasn’t interested in any of the movies in the selection, I tried to watch the flight map instead. For some reason though, it was disabled and unavailable throughout the flight. Yet even more confusingly, the flight map was played on the bulkhead screens…

Moving map not available

In terms of other entertainment, they did have five separate inflight magazines, which is just wow. There were two magazines in English, including a fashion-focused one. Granted, one of them is the inflight shopping catalogue, whilst two were the Vietnamese and Japanese versions of the magazine. Still, I was still very impressed with their commitment to reading material!

Magazine selection


Compared to my flight into Vietnam, the crew on this flight didn’t seem as warm and were a lot more reserved, although they were very well-intentioned and courteous. Granted, my interactions with the crew were quite limited, by design of this short red-eye flight. Despite that, I did feel that they are a lot more experienced and slightly more polished when it came to service. This was evident, for instance, when the crew kneeled down when taking meal orders and were careful when placing glasses and trays on the table. All in all, it was all good!

Arrival at Tokyo Narita

Around 35 minutes before landing, the captain came back to the intercom to announce our landing time and the commencement of descent. Sure enough, our plane started descending 10 minutes after this announcement, and we were treated to some views of the Sea of Japan.

View of the Sea of Japan

Around 18 minutes before landing, the seatbelt signs were switched on and the was cabin prepared for landing. At this time, more advertisements were played on the screens, along with an interesting Vietnam Airlines pre-landing video about two people travelling in Japan. As we descended, I was surprised that people still got up to use the lavatories, even though the seatbelt lights were on. I guess they’re quite lenient when it came to this, since I saw the same on my previous flight.

At 07.35 Japan Time, we had a smooth touchdown on Narita Airport’s Runway A, 25 minutes early. This was followed immediately by an announcement in Vietnamese and English from the crew welcoming us to Tokyo. As we taxied to our gate, we passed a few ANA planes, including their adorable Flying Honu A380! We ended up parking next to another Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9 that had just arrived from Hanoi.

The Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9 from Hanoi

About 15 minutes after landing, the doors finally opened. I thanked the crew and bid farewell before disembarking from Door 1L. As I walked the circuitous route to immigration, I finally got a glimpse of the gorgeous Boeing 787-9 that took us to Tokyo.

Our Boeing 787-9, VN-A867, at Tokyo Narita Airport


Overall, I came off this flight with mixed feelings about Vietnam Airlines. On one hand, I was impressed with several aspects of the flight, including the convenient seats, provision of amenity kits, and the on-time (or early) departure and arrival. But at the same time, nearly everything else about the flight was just very mediocre. Whilst I observed that the crew worked hard within their means to provide a pleasant experience, I guess the averageness was also by design of the flight’s duration and difficult timing.

In any case, I’m happy to have flown on a medium to long-haul sector on Vietnam Airlines. Whilst I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly with them again, I wouldn’t hesitate in choosing Vietnam Airlines, either – especially if the price and timing are right!

Read more from this trip here!

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